Fantasy managers frequently look to rookies as instant-impact players. But what if the collective NFL isn't as impressed with a rookie class? Should Fantasy managers take notice and not put much stock into them, or should they still draft them anyway?
In April's draft, only two skill-position players, receivers Drake London and Garrett Wilson, went in the first 10 picks (neither made the top five). By the time Round 1 was done, six receivers, one quarterback and no running backs were selected. By the time the first 50 overall picks were through, two running backs and four more receivers were chosen.
Fine, 10 receivers in the first 50 picks aren't so bad. But just two running backs and one quarterback?
The truth is that the 2022 class is solid, but imperfect. There isn't a flawless player who managers can count on for big numbers right away. Not only is there no Najee Harris or Ja'Marr Chase, but there's no Javonte Williams or Jaylen Waddle. It might be a stretch to say there's one who could produce like Elijah Mitchell or Elijah Moore.
You're about to learn that there isn't anyone in the rookie class worth going crazy for. You won't see any rookies in the top-25 picks in seasonal leagues and, if your draft is anything like the one you'll see in this magazine, you won't see any rookies in the top 45, either. And if you're in a rookie-only draft for Dynasty leagues, you may determine that you'd rather trade out of this year's picks to stock up on next year's class, which already figures to be awesome.
Note: Players are listed in the order of Dave Richard's 2022 PPR rankings. Players ages are as of Week 1.
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Drake London, Atlanta Falcons
Height 6-3 7/8 | Weight: 219 | Age: 21 years old
London is a power forward on the football field, perfect to leap up and grab high throws against smaller cornerbacks (which is pretty much every cornerback in the league). But London is also a balanced mover who knows how to use his body to box out defenders on in-breaking routes and pick up yardage after the catch. He's got a little more to learn in terms of route-running, his big size does make him easier to catch up with, and a mild injury history is worth knowing about, but it's obvious the Falcons are trying to build a receiving corps full of skyscrapers. The Falcons will count on Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder as their quarterbacks this year, which isn't great, but they're not bad enough to completely wipe out London's upside in an offense that figures to throw a lot this year. Both he and tight end Kyle Pitts should top 120 targets.
2022 DRAFT OUTLOOK: Receiver-hungry drafters in PPR leagues will begin targeting London in the middle of Round 6, but you should expect him to be gone by the end of Round 7. In non-PPR leagues, London should fall at least one round later.
ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: London is one of a handful of receivers with the upside to be the best in his draft class, though that could take time to come to fruition. Expect him to get chosen anywhere from second to sixth overall in this format.
Height: 6-2 | Weight: 225 | Age as of Week 1: 22
Burks is a big, physical, faster-than-you-think receiver with room to develop his game further. At Arkansas, Burks caught an overwhelming number of short-area targets and became well known as a powerful force who would bowl over defenders after the catch. When he did get targeted further downfield, he showed off good tracking and hands. There were times when Burks seemed like a slower player, and other times when he had the speed of a smaller receiver. Offseason concerns about his conditioning and a bout with asthma haven't changed the expectations that he'll have an instant role as a potential 120-target option in Tennessee's offense.
2022 DRAFT OUTLOOK: He'll get attention as a No. 3 Fantasy receiver, potentially as a bargain compared to fellow rookie Drake London. The two should go within 12 spots of each other with Burks frequently second.
ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: Burks has some upside to improve his game and really become a dominant receiver. It's hard to imagine it happening while he's with the Titans since their offense is so run-centric, but that philosophy could someday change once Derrick Henry hangs 'em up. Expect him to be a top-six pick.
Height: 6-0 3/8 | Weight: 187 | Age as of Week 1: 22
For the past three seasons, Chris Olave has been the best receiver at Ohio State. His rise to prominence pushed Garrett Wilson into a "1B" role as a receiver and Jameson Williams onto another college program! Olave's penchant for big plays and end-zone visits is helped by his instant acceleration, incredible agility, savvy route running and incredible awareness. Fairly lean for his position, Olave's weakness is dealing with physicality, which could hamper his contested catches in the pros. That could be addressed as his career moves on. For now, Olave finds himself in a favorable position as a downfield threat in an offense with lots of other skilled targets and a quarterback who loves to chuck it 20-plus yards. It's not a wish to think Olave could be the most productive rookie receiver in 2022.
2022 DRAFT OUTLOOK: There will probably be one or two Fantasy managers in every draft who take Olave before 100th overall, but that's right around the time to target him. If you like him more than most, it's not wrong to make him your eighth-round pick.
ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: Olave's floor is to be a steady contributor in New Orleans for a long time, but his ceiling is to be one of the biggest playmakers in the NFL. He's going to be a top-five pick in most rookie-only drafts, and potentially a top-two pick.
Garrett Wilson, New York Jets
Height: 5-11 3/4 | Weight: 183 | Age as of Week 1: 22
The second receiver drafted in April, Wilson gives the Jets a shifty speedster who plays with advanced fluidity, footwork and technique. He's a handful as a route-runner and uses his supreme agility to get open and his burst and acceleration to stay open and pick up large gains. He's also excellent at adjusting to off-target throws, a big plus considering his smallish size. He was an awesome playmaker at Ohio State but didn't have much when it came to being physical, and unlike others in the class, may never develop into a powerful player. He's also stuck with Zach Wilson as his quarterback for at least the next few seasons, which as of now doesn't seem like such a great thing. Garrett Wilson will only be as good as Zach Wilson lets him; if the quarterback improves, Wilson could easily be the best playmaker in the class.
2022 DRAFT OUTLOOK: Wilson could end up as the receiver with the most targets in New York, but there's no guarantee it'll be a high number, nor will it be that much more than the other top wideouts. For that reason, expect Wilson to fall into Round 8 or 9 as a quality bench receiver.
ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: The more we see and hear Zach Wilson improve, the more Garrett Wilson moves closer to the No. 2 overall pick in rookie drafts. Even if the quarterback is just so-so this preseason, the rookie won't fall past seventh overall.
Height: 5-10 5/8 | Weight: 178 | Age as of Week 1: 22
Dotson is a talented, twitchy, speedy wideout who should land an instant opportunity with the Commanders. He has very good footwork that he pairs with good burst and acceleration to separate from defenders and then breakaway with long speed. He's a small package, which will frustrate folks when he doesn't do much in contested catch and physical situations, but he plays bigger than he is and has a catch radius of someone larger than he actually is. Dotson has experience lining up everywhere and didn't take long to get acclimated to the offense or to quarterback Carson Wentz. We've been chasing receivers not named Terry McLaurin in Washington for years – looks like we finally have a reliable one.
2022 DRAFT OUTLOOK: The best part about Dotson is that some Fantasy managers will dismiss him because he's on Washington, or because he's not as high-profile as other receivers. You don't have to think that way! Most will take him in Round 10, but an aggressive drafter could reach into late Round 9 without looking foolish.
ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: Expect Dotson to last until at least sixth overall, but not past 10th overall.
Height: 6-4-1/8 | Weight: 208 | Age as of Week 1: 23
The North Dakota State standout is an intoxicating blend of speed and height with potential to eventually become a complete receiver. Smooth acceleration helped Watson speed past FCS-level competition, and long, gangly arms contribute to his excellent catch radius. There are concerns regarding his focus, hands and play-strength, not to mention issues with his hamstring costing him some games in 2021, and a lack of serious competition also doesn't help. But playing with Aaron Rodgers tends to help receivers become household names, and Watson should spend plenty of time this preseason trying to become his best target. Just remember that the track record of rookie receivers with Rodgers is not pretty.
2022 DRAFT OUTLOOK: Like plenty of others, Watson will get nabbed in Round 9 by drafters who are certain he'll be Rodgers' top target this season. He's a safer bench receiver if he makes it to Round 10.
ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: Watson will be a first-round pick, but toward the back end of the round. Expect him taken by 12th overall.
Height: 5-9 5/8 | Weight: 195 | Age as of Week 1: 22
Moore is a shifty, quick-twitch receiver who seems best as a short-area target who will make defenses pay for giving him even a yard of open space. That makes him a great fit for the Chiefs, actually – no quarterback had more attempts against zone coverage last year than Patrick Mahomes. If that plays out, Moore could potentially become a modest-volume receiver right away. And if teams decide to play more man, Moore can beat non-elite coverage with his speed. He plays with the mentality of a 6-foot-2, 230-pounder and is willing to get physical but can't play with power. Lastly, Moore has humongous hands – the largest of any receiver at the combine. That should help him not drop many passes (four last year and seven over three years).
2022 DRAFT OUTLOOK: Drafters will take Moore just because he's on the Chiefs. If he doesn't appear to have a path to instant playing time, though, the pick could be a waste. The safest time to take him is Round 10 or later.
ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: Moore figures to be one of the rookies taken between ninth and 12th overall.
Jameson Williams, Detroit Lions
Height: 6-1 1/2 | Weight: 179 | Age as of Week 1: 21
We finally get to one of the prized receivers of the 2022 draft class, but one who could miss a large chunk of his rookie season as he recovers from a torn ACL suffered in January. Williams is tall and slender with jaw-dropping, game-breaking speed. He's specifically a zone-coverage dominator as cornerbacks feared his speed, making underneath throws easy for him to bring in and potentially turn into long plays. Williams was not afraid of contact, but his lean build kept him from getting physical. The Lions clearly valued Williams' top trait for not only making big plays with the ball in his hands, but for opening up the rest of the offense to make plays because defenses are forced to respect his wheels. Fantasy managers must be patient on two fronts: Williams won't be ready to play for several weeks into the season, and when he does play, it's Jared Goff throwing to him.
2022 DRAFT OUTLOOK: It's a mistake to reach for Williams in seasonal drafts since there's no timetable for his return, nor do we have a good projection for how he'll do with Goff. He shouldn't get taken until at least Round 11.
ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: All of Williams' concerns could be history by 2023. If he's healthy, and if the Lions have a stronger-armed quarterback, then Williams could easily be the best Fantasy performer of the class. Long-term dynasty drafters will consider taking Williams as soon as second overall.
Height: 6-3 1/4 | Weight: 195 | Age as of Week 1: 21
Years ago, George Pickens might have been tabbed as one of the top receivers in the draft class. He still could be, but a combination of injuries and immature moments have hampered how people view him. As a talent, Pickens is tall, long-armed, fast and willing to go all-out to make highlight-reel catches with his athleticism. He's a good route-runner with room to be even better and has pretty reliable hands, even though they're a little small. He set a freshman record at Georgia with a 49-727-8 stat line, then followed it up with an equally impressive sophomore year before missing two games with an injury, then tearing his ACL in a practice in March 2021. Pickens also had a pair of ugly moments on the field, first getting into a fight during a game and then getting called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty while on the bench of another. The Steelers are wizards at cultivating talent, and with Diontae Johnson in a contract year and Chase Claypool disappointing the coaching staff in 2021, there should be ample opportunity for Pickens to become a quality contributor in 2022 and potentially their No. 1 option in 2023.
2022 DRAFT OUTLOOK: Pickens will be a late pick in every draft as a low-risk bench receiver, though he might get dropped quickly if he doesn't start the season playing well. It wouldn't be surprising if the second Fantasy manager to roster Pickens is the one who gets the most out of him.
ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: Because he has potential to be the Steelers' No. 1 receiver as soon as 2023, Pickens will get Round 1 attention. He could go as soon as eighth overall or as late as 15th overall.
Height: 6-1 1/8 | Weight: 194 | Age as of Week 1: 23
Tolbert could find himself as a top contributor for the Cowboys in 2022, especially since Michael Gallup is still in recovery from a torn ACL. Tolbert's a sudden-moving receiver with good size. He's particularly good on contested-catch and off-target throws. His speed is only solid, and a concerning number of drops as a senior in spite of having large 10-inch hands is a little concerning. His route-running also needs some work, but that can be fixed with proper coaching. If he adapts to Dallas' offense quickly, he wouldn't have much competition for playing time as at worst the No. 3 receiver all year long.
2022 DRAFT OUTLOOK: He might be a helpful Fantasy receiver for however long Gallup is out, which puts him on the late-round radar.
ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: Gallup and CeeDee Lamb are under contract in Dallas for at least the next two seasons, so Tolbert's path to developing into a quality Fantasy option is blocked, not to mention hindered by him being a 23-year-old rookie. We'd keep the long-term investment in Tolbert to the back half of the second round.